Київ Day 2 – 20 Nov 2009 (Киев/Kiev/Kyiv)

Unfortunately, we got a late start (around noon) because we were all out cold for the whole night and morning. But at least we felt well rested for the long day. The weather was a bit eerie with fog steadily dropping as the day progressed. Once inside, we decided to visit the museum before entering the main cathedral. There was also a bakery and a living quarters building. Then we entered the cathedral. After rejoining the rest of the group they wanted to grab something to eat. Clearly, they did not visit the grocery store the previous night to buy breakfast for each morning. Muesli with yogurt and a double-decker egg & cheese sandwich (3 slices bread 2 eggs) is my daily breakfast of choice while here. Plus the banana for consumption approximately 2.5-3 hours after breakfast, and then the poppyseed bun or blackberry roll (as was the case today) for consumption approximately 2 hours after the banana. We cannot forget the small sips of water… Anyway, going inside Мистер Снек (phonetically Mister Snack) was rewarding in itself as I saw this: I grabbed a small sandwich and postponed my banana consumption for later, namely because the sandwich was called “Smiley” sandwich and the Smiley emoticon is some favorite symbol of Kyiv. It was mentioned a lot and we saw it on the walls of different places. Afterward we split up and the group I was in went to the Golden Gate, which was very similar to the one in Vladimir, but it lacked a corny diorama. But the interesting history made up for it. We learned that it was built to be the main ceremonial entrance to Kyiv in 1037, during Grand Prince Yaroslav’s rule. It also served as a fortification tower. In the 18th century, to preserve the gate from further dilapidation, it was completely covered with...

Київ Day 1 – 19 Nov 2009 (Киев/Kiev/Kyiv)

About three weeks ago we decided to go to Kyiv, one week later. But then Chris accidently bought the tickets for the following week and so we had to wait. But on the night of Wednesday 18th of November 2009, we boarded a Russian train and tried to sleep our way to Kyiv. It was difficult to sleep as we passed through 2 border controls which took about 30 minutes each and occurred around 2 am and 5 am. So I didn’t get much sleep. My built-up excitement fueled my adrenaline which powered me through the day. Let me just say before any further that Kyiv is most definitely, most certainly, without a doubt, 100%, hands down, my favorite of favorite places that we have visited here. It is beautiful. But more than that, it’s comfortable to walk around and explore. Moscow is too big to do this, and so while I am oriented in Moscow by the metro system, I have no idea how to get from one place to another by walking. In Kyiv, one can walk all over the central part of the city and walk down Kreshatik (great street) and not feel overwhelmed like in Moscow. The streets are a more manageable size and so seem more comfortable to walk alongside (you can see what’s on the other side). On a side note, (that had nothing to do with how much I liked the city whatsoever–maybe a little), the women are gorgeous. We were all stunned. The entire time. Everywhere we looked. I’m not saying Russian women aren’t pretty, just that, wow. And guess what, one can buy one and bring her home, as was advertised all over our tourist guide map. This is actually quite sad and while I read that the government in Belarus is trying to shut this industry down, I haven’t...

Red Square & Rachmaninoff Nov. 11-14

This week began with a boom. Literally. Apparently on Monday, Dian was sitting in class and heard ‘gunshots.’ At the end of the day, he and the rest of the students who had class were walking home and noticed this car on fire, or what was left of it, sitting on the side of the road: So as of today (Nov 21) this car is still there, but with a cover over it. We have no idea what happened but it’s somewhat interesting. On Saturday, Tanya & I decided to go see the Diamond Fund and so after my morning run we headed out. As we were exiting the student hostel area, we got caught in the middle of a camera crew setting up there equipment to film a scene: But we eventually made it to the center, and inside the Kremlin walls. This is all we got to see of the Kremlin. And since our tickets were for 2pm we decided to walk around Red Square and the outside walls to kill the time before our Diamond Fund time. Since we had more time, we dropped into St. Basil’s to check it out. There are about 9 separate towers/rooms of worship. So two Friday’s ago, while we were chillin’ at the IUM, and Lenny was thinking about selling his Oakley gloves to me because they were too big for him, Adeel leaned over and said, “Yeah, Caleb that would be a good idea. Oakley is like Oakland & Berkeley put together so it would be perfect for you.” I had never thought of that before. But it turns out Oakley isn’t from the Bay Area so it would have been a bad idea. Plus, I wear Smith, because… It was now time for our Diamond Fund appointment so we headed back over to the inner Kremlin area. The...

Slow Week, Snow Run Nov. 4-7

The week started out normally, with us trying to finish our homework the day before each class. The Russians got a holiday on the 4th; unfortunately, we didn’t. But it made for an interesting morning commute to school. The entire city was silent. At first I didn’t notice a difference (maybe that’s how much I zone out every day to and from class), but then when I could see all the way down a street without cars blocking my way, I finally saw. I just realized I haven’t shown you our university yet. Here it is, all in one building. All of its glamor. To be exact, our classrooms are on the third floor toward the right. Only one window can be seen: on the right of the three birch trees. We use three classrooms. Two on this side of the building, one on the rear. The workload steadily increases and we try to deal with it: On Friday, right after lunch, I headed over to the Higher School of Econ to practice piano like I usually do. Then I was to head back to the IUM to have consultation with my algebra professor (office hours). I stepped outside and Moscow was covered in 4 inches of snow. And it was dumping more. Amazing. I put my earphones in and walked to IUM. Here are some photos of us walking home after our consultation through Little Arbat and to the Metro. Luckily, the snow stayed until after Saturday morning so I was able to go on a real snow run. I brought my camera this time and took some shots of my run to share. Great scenery on my long Saturday runs. The rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful as we stayed indoors and did homework. So no more for...

Snow & Swan Lake – Halloween in Moscow

Since the song just came on in my headphones while I finished writing this, you should listen to it while you read. It’s probably my favorite song for the semester, and the other students laugh at me when I play it because I get up and dance, not really, well maybe, but no not really, just kidding, maybe, not really. Anyway, it’s called and it sounds amazing on my headphones after getting them back from China where I got them repaired. You might not like it if you don’t like electronic dance music, but I do. Yesterday, October 30 was our first day of snow. There was less than an inch and it didn’t cover everything, but it stuck for the night and I was able to run through white covered trails in the park nearby during my run Halloween morning. Here I am, successfully returned from my first ‘snow’ run: After a quick shower and a double-decker egg sandwich we headed out for the Kremlin area. The idea was to see the Diamond Fund, but when we arrived we noticed it was harder to get into the Kremlin than we had thought, and even with 3 students in the beginning Russian class we were not confident with our communication abilities. It also didn’t help that some of us haven’t been to Disneyland that much and so have not had practice in, and thus no patience for, standing in a line longer than 5 minutes—much to my dissatisfaction. So we ended up walking around the outside of the Kremlin and going on a short walking tour through inner Moscow. We then branched off the Kremlin area and began our short walking tour. We then ventured into the Romanov’s Moscow house which is now a museum. Even though it was four stories tall, the building was very tiny and the...

Haydn & Hard Rock October 24-30

The second week of October went by pretty uneventful, except our preparation for the midterms the following week. There was one thing that was a surprise. After we got home one day this week, there was a loud announcement over the PA system. Suddenly, those of us who were home, and understood Russian pretty well, came out of their rooms and said, “We’re quarantined? Because of swine flu?” Then others asked, “wait does that mean we can’t leave now?” “No, we just can’t have visitors.” So basically, since none of us have had any visitors except those already living in the dorm, nothing changed. But now many Russians wear those ridiculous masks all over the place–metro, city sidewalks, malls. Friends even compare the differences between one’s mask to another’s. Another thing that is kind of odd is how people sell items on the metro. We’ll get on in the morning on the way to school and as soon as the doors close, a person will begin talking in Russian holding the item for sale and waving it around, pointing out all the ‘good’ things about it. Today, the day I’m writing this, a lady got on and tried to sell a battery powered desk/reading lamp for 100p, about $3. One time, a man got on and successfully sold a knife sharpener to a passenger. Weird, but I guess effective. Also, the Kindle and other electronic reading devices have become very popular over here, probably because of the convenience. I see people using them on the Metro all the time, I even try to read over their shoulders occasionally. Although, it saddens me, for some reason, that people are reading an electronic device and not a real bound book. But I still see some people with real books, magazines, and newspapers so all is not lost. Anyway, Saturday the 24th...

Volkonsky Keyser, MoMA, & Gulag Weekend of Oct. 17

The math is becoming more involved and I am required to spend more and more time with it. Perhaps if I had spent more time in the beginning, I wouldn’t have to now. Nah, that never works. Anyway, Dan shows how our exhaustion is setting in. On Saturday after my morning run we took off to the center of Moscow to begin our walking tour. We were going to get a snack at Volkonsky Keyser first, then head to the Museum of Modern Art, and finish with the Gulag (and eat a pastry afterward to cheer us up). Into the metro! Then we headed down the street to find the Gulag, a museum memorializing those sent to Siberia among other places during Stalin’s reign. There was an hour long film about the Gulag. So of course we watched it. The documentary featured interviews of survivors and was pretty depressing itself. But sometime during it the narrator mentioned that Stalin’s motivation for building a railway across the northern border of Russia, ie across Siberia, was to defend the northern border. Immediately Lenny busts up laughing and says, “What?! to protect against who…the polar bears?” We basically couldn’t take the rest of the documentary seriously. Once we finished with the Gulag we headed back to the metro to go home. Along the way we saw a few interesting things. Once home, we had a mouthwatering poppyseed bun, one of my favorite things about...